Originally posted December 3, 2011...
I love that song. Forgive me, I know it’s poppy and insipid and monosyllabic, but it’s my summer jam this winter. And not only mine. Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” has been number one in a dozen countries (but according to Wikipedia, peaked at number 48 in Spain–what’s the deal, Spain?). And I think the appeal is not how accurately it captures the teenage experience, but rather how it romanticizes the teenage experience we all wish we had. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t spend my teenage years getting drunk on the beach or building forts out of sheets. But I sort of wish I had, you know?
Today at work my coworker asked how old I was. She seemed surprised when I told her 27. I was flattered by her surprise and asked her why, did I seem younger to her? “Yeah, you do!” she said. “Not like you’re immature or whatever, and lookswise you’re definitely 27, but I just thought… I don’t know.” Solid burn about my looks aside, I knew what she meant. She, after all, is five years my junior and has two children under three. Let that roll around in the ole’ bean counter a minute. Twenty-two years old and two babies at home. And in fact, among the full time staff where I work, everyone lives at home with their parents or are parents themselves. Other than management I am the eldest employee, but instead of feeling old in this environment, I feel really young. I have a teenager’s job, requiring a teenager’s level of skill, with no parents down my back, and no kids popping out my front. As much as I hate the patently unchallenging drudgery, and could really use more than a teenage salary, day jobs like these allow me nights of my own choosing. It’s like I have the freedom every teenager desires, but I’m old enough to appreciate it. It can’t last forever, though, which leads me to today’s Dream.
Dream: Make the most of my remaining teenage years.
Goal: Achievable. I’m a few years, a few pounds, and a few less locks of luscious hair from becoming the sourpuss bald fatty who lurks in dark corners of the bar and calls girls “Phillies.” With an economy in the crapper and one in five university grads underemployed (working at a job beneath their level of qualification), why can’t 27 be the new 17? Or at least the new 21?
Plan: Learn from the young people.
I need to up my stamina. This Big City has, potentially, the most exciting nightlife in the country (unless that bar is still open in Nokomis). And I’ve seen so little of it because I’m just so fucking tired. If Jon and I have plans to go out for the evening we rest up like hibernating bears. We sleep a lot, emerging every few hours for hydration and a small snack of nuts or berries, or we just feed off stored fat (which Jon has less of because he’s a big, stupid jerk who doesn’t care enough to get fat with me). And the bar itself is a baffling ordeal. When did booze get so expensive? And when did MUSIC GET THIS LOUD? We always set out with such promise, but we’re home again defeated by 11 o’clock watching PVR’d Datelines about “perfect families hiding shameful secrets” (by the way, if you’re a rich parent, don’t send your kid away to school or he will more than likely return home to murder you).
In addition to increasing my stamina, I must also do life faster. I went out for coffee and errands with David recently, a young, successful man-about-town who is only five years younger than I am, but infinitely more attune to the teenage pace of things. I say coffee and errands rather than just coffee because you can’t really sit still with David. We went to five different places to do ten different things and I couldn’t believe it only took an hour, but that’s just how he works. And he received and sent text messages throughout, but it wasn’t rude because it only took an ounce of his attention away from our conversation, and it seemed so second nature to him that I don’t think he realized he was doing it. I remember one time where David picked me up in Saskatoon one morning to drive to Prince Albert for a rehearsal. He had spent the previous night partying at several bars, but needed only an egg-nog latte to get going. I remember running lines with him in the car, listening to the soundtrack of the show we were rehearsing, as he literally changed clothes while he drove. But again, that’s how he is. That’s probably part of the reason he’s so successful, a smalltown boy from P.A. rising up above the oversaturated talent pool of Toronto theatre. I’m so grateful to know him, but he’s exhausting.
Unlike grown-ups, though, whose professional and personal obligations demand increased stamina and a fast-pace, teens can do it all while remaining chilled the fuck out. I also had coffee and errands recently with Jonelle, a young, successful woman-about-town who hovers closer to my age, but works a lot harder than I do and gets a lot more done. We had a great day of coffee, kvetching and Christmas shopping, but we unwittingly let some grown-up stress steep in there. We compared war stories of landing some gigs and getting passed over for others, but eventually dissolved into, “I don’t know how to audition anymore!” and “Why are there no good monologues?” and “I’m too young to play this, but too old to go for this!” And the first Christmas shop of the year is always hard. You can never find what you’re looking for, and that’s only if you know what you’re looking for in the first place. I had a great time with Jonelle, I always do, but I left feeling worried that we might have let doubt and stress get the better of us. I reflected on this a few days later working with New Guy, a part-time newbie at one of my jobs who is an actual teenager and I think a new resident of Gaytown (couldn’t say for sure but he had that certain energy and his ringtone was something from Glee). I tried to bond with New Guy, jokingly asking if he was sure he wanted to work here; that this job had a way of imprisoning you for awhile. He didn’t take the bait, though, and bemoan his fate. “Oh whatever,” he said, grinning. “This is just a temporary thing. Something else will work out.” I thought about his confidence; his belief that better things wait around the corner, and wondered why Jonelle and I couldn’t see that for ourselves that day. Tempting fate, I started bitching about Christmas shopping in an attempt to find common ground. Surely this was a universal bummer. “Oh whatever,” he grinned again. “I just get everybody gift cards. Who doesn’t like that?” Who indeed, brother?
They say that in your twenties, you are exactly the age you want to be. In your actual teen years, you want desperately to be older and get out from under the thumb of your parents. Post-thirty, I suppose you start to feel old, and yearn for the carefree days of youth. That makes sense, and I believe it. I think an added bonus to being gay (besides being able to live with your best friend and wear his clothes when he’s not wearing them), is that I don’t have the societal expectations to age at the same rate as my straight counterparts. What I mean is, nobody asks Jon and I when we’re going to get married. Gay marriage is such a new thing, comparatively, that nobody knows when it’s “supposed” to happen. And people never ask us when we’re having kids either, because that’s a lengthy and sometimes difficult process for same sex couples that you can’t ask about at a dinner party. So I’ve got a lot going for me. I have easy jobs, coffee dates, PVR’d Datelines and for now, time is on my side, yes it is. So best to hope for more great things around the corner, enjoy this present time, and “don’t ever look back, don’t ever look back.”